When it comes to family travel, doing off the beaten path travel isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Most people usually think of a holiday on the beach. For other families, travel involves touring a well-known city in Europe or America. Or even more common, spending the weekend at a theme park or an all-inclusive resort.
Back in my younger days, I used to scoff at the idea of going to an all-inclusive resort. Even paying money to be part of a tour group was something I looked down on. Now that I am a mother of two young kids, I have to admit there is something appealing about the thought of going on a trip where you know everything will be available to you and everything will be taken care of.
This post was updated on March 31, 2020.
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The limitations of traveling with kids
These days, my family trips tend to be more on the conventional side compared to trips I used to take as a solo traveler. I have yet to ride in bush taxis across West Africa with my children, or drag them through the chaos of an Indian market, or even take them on a walkabout in the Australian outback.
It’s not that I’m afraid to do these types of travel experiences with my kids. Rather, it’s because there are certain, very real, limitations that come with traveling with kids. The primary limitation of travel is financial. Traveling with kids can be expensive!
If money were no object, I would be traipsing across the globe with my children in a heartbeat. However, since money is a rather important thing to consider when traveling with family, we’ve ended up limiting our travel to essentially one big trip per year.
Doing off the beaten path travel with a family
Despite the limit on number of trips, we’ve never really had a limit on where we could go on our travels. Aside from fairly popular tourist destinations like Southeast Asia and New York City, we’ve taken our kids to off the beaten path places like Paraguay (take a look at the Paraguay travel guide by Bradt to see why it’s such a cool country to visit).
And even within Southeast Asia, we have traveled to some fairly rustic destinations. We’ve taken an orangutan tour in Sumatra, Indonesia. And we’ve visited the island of Palawan in the Philippines to tour an underground river!
Going off the beaten path with your kids is so important when trying to raise globally minded kids. To me, it teaches them that there is a great big world out there. I love seeing how my kids interact with the world that they are experiencing.
Creating lasting impressions
Another thing I love about going on an off the beaten path family trip is that it makes for interesting stories. During a trip to Indonesia in 2015, we spent several days in the village of Bukit Lawang on the island of Sumatra. We stayed at a guest house located just on the edge of a Gunung Leuser National Park. During that trip, we did a jungle trek where we saw orangutans in the wild. It was quite the experience!
At this young age, kids don’t understand the role that they have in the world. They also may not understand the impact that their travels have on communities around the world. But at the same time, I honestly think that exposing kids to the world helps to nurture responsible travel.
When we visited the Philippines in 2012, my stepson, who was 14 at the time, was struck by how different the way of life was like in rural Philippines compared to what he had grown up with in the US. This was his first time in a developing country. And I think it really had an impact on helping him appreciate his own privileges and advantages.
Connecting with the world by going off the beaten path
By far, the most important thing about traveling off the beaten path is that it connects you to the rest of the world. Staying at an all-inclusive resort is relaxing, but there is something isolating and disconnected about the experience. It’s really difficult to even catch a glimpse of the local culture if your exposure to it is always through the lens of the hotel’s hospitality agenda.
Some of the things I really like to do when I travel is walk around the city. We’ll shop at local grocery stores or markets, and eat at food stalls or local eateries. We’ve done this in Southeast Asia, in Mexico, and even in Europe. Constantly having to figure things out keeps my husband and me on our toes. And it also makes for some interesting and eventful days.
In actuality, all travel, whether off the beaten path or not, can be enlightening. But if our ultimate goal for family travel is to raise global citizens, then the best way to have them learn about the world is to show them the world.
So for your next family trip, why not be a bit adventurous and take the road less traveled. I guarantee it will be worth the effort!
Do you like doing off the beaten path travel? Share your stories in the comments!
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